Can a Sex Offender Pass a Background Check? Skip to Content

Can a Sex Offender Pass a Background Check?

If you are a business owner looking to hire new staff, the question of whether a sex offender can pass a background check might worry you. Even in industries where working with vulnerable populations isn’t in the job description, you may feel concerned about your employees’ and clients’ safety. Here’s what you need to know about sex offenders and background checks.


What Does a Background Check Include?

Most employers run a background check on new hires. However, there are many types of background checks companies can perform. Typically, a basic background check includes information such as:

  • Location history
  • Work and career background
  • Name usage and changes
  • Financial information

Other types of background checks involve a person’s credit history. In financial and similar industries, for example, many organizations do not want employees who carry severe debt. A company may not hire someone for a bank teller job, for instance, because a high amount of debt means they could be a financial risk when handling money.

Casinos often have similar hiring practices, even going so far as to ask applicants whether they have overextended credit. Background checks using social security information may also indicate whether a person has committed fraud or skipped out on paying taxes.

A wealth of information can come from a background check. However, you need the right type to uncover the details you need to make smart hiring choices.


Limitations of a Traditional Background Check

In short, a typical background check may not reveal an applicant’s criminal history. However, a criminal background check does indicate past convictions. Criminal histories are legal to obtain in many states. But when screening applicants for open positions, it’s crucial that you know your state’s laws and limitations.

Many states have varying restrictions as to what information an employer can use to make hiring and firing decisions. In other words, some states don’t allow you to refuse a job to someone because of their status as a sex offender. You can, however, deny them a job because they lied about having a criminal history. That is, if you run a criminal background check on them and find that information for yourself.


Can a Sex Offender Pass a Background Check?

In short, yes, a sex offender can pass a background check. There are a few reasons for this. First, traditional background checks may not show a person’s criminal history. Only a criminal background check reveals court information and conviction details.

In all states, however, public databases offer information on local sex offenders. The problem with these databases is that many states limit how employers can use the information. Plus, you may not know where to look for information on a potential hire who has moved around often.

The second reason a sex offender may be able to pass a background check is because of the conviction date. In many states, crimes older than ten years may not come up in a search on an applicant. For certain crimes—often convictions apart from sex offenses—a five-year window is all employers can search in.

Third on the list of reasons a sex offender can pass a background check is the fact that some crimes don’t show up on background checks. For example, some types of sex offenses—like indecent exposure or sexual battery—may not result in sex offender registration.


Can an Employer Ask About Criminal History?

In most states, employers can ask about criminal history during the hiring process. However, many states are leaning toward fewer disclosures on job applications. For example, “Ban-the-Box” legislation in many states and areas limits what employers can ask during applicant screening.

Even states with Ban the Box legislation cannot prevent employers from running background checks and screenings on candidates. The legislation only limits whether organizations can ask if employees carry criminal convictions, after all. It doesn’t keep them from checking social media or combing through public records data.

Most states prevent companies from denying job offers to applicants based on criminal actions alone. Most jurisdictions agree that criminals who have served their time or undergone treatment (or both) have a right to a stigma-free future. While this doesn’t mean offenders are no longer a risk, it does suggest that employers judge them based on current and future conduct, not past mistakes.


Can You Deny Someone a Job Because of a Background Check?

Yes, companies can deny applicants jobs due to the results of a background check. Limitations apply when dealing with criminal conviction statuses, however. But an employer can deny someone a job because of social media screening, financial history checks, and other factors.

For example, you may not be able to deny a job offer to someone who is a sex offender. But you could redact a job offer after finding that the applicant lied about their qualifications (via LinkedIn or another social media site). You may also refuse a job offer to someone who doesn’t fit your company’s culture.


Limits to Refusing Employment as a Result of Background Checks

The challenge with refusing—or revoking—offers of employment is that you must defend your decision. Whether it’s your hiring manager or a court judge you must answer to, documenting the reason you refuse to hire someone is always essential.


Final Thoughts on Sex Offender Background Checks

Not feeling confident about a potential new hire? Even though many states limit how you can use sex offender registry information, it is public access. Therefore, using all available background checking avenues is always a smart choice when looking to expand your staff. Fortunately, a range of background check measures can help streamline your hiring decisions.